This lesson plan for A1 level primary learners aged 9 to 10 years old raises awareness about children with a disability.

This is a series of activities and related worksheets for you to download and use with the storybook Susan Laughs. Learners will make a personalised or class book based on the story and give a presentation. It forms part of the Promoting diversity through children's literature series, produced by the British Council Teaching Centre in Paris.


9-10 years old



About the story

Susan Laughs is a short story told in rhyming couplets using the simple present. The story describes a range of common emotions and activities experienced by a little girl, Susan. She swims with her father, works hard in school, plays with her friends, rides a horse. It is not until the end of the story that we discover that Susan is a wheelchair user. When looking back through the book, we notice that Susan is never unassisted but we do not realise any of this until it is bought to our attention in the final illustration. There are only a few words in this plotless story which is told with great warmth but without sentimentality. It delivers a powerful message and provides a positive image of children with a disability. It focuses on Susan's abilities rather than on the things by which she is limited and shows that she is like all children, she is good, she is bad, she is strong, she is weak. Susan is an active, feisty little girl whose physical disability is never seen as a handicap. 

This story can be used as an excellent classroom tool to facilitate conversations and explore questions and concerns about disability. The book could also be easily tailored to talk specifically about a particular child by simply changing the name as you read the story.

Susan Laughs was winner of the NASEN Special Educational Needs Book Awards in 2000.

Illustrative style and cultural information

The story is illustrated by the British illustrator, Tony Ross, who uses pastel crayon and pencil to create expressive pictures. There are two words a page so the book relies on the illustrations. The illustrations are lively and thoughtful and help children recognize their own feelings and experiences by identifying with Susan's emotions, feelings and achievements. Children are quickly engaged by the rhythm of the text and the interest created by the illustrations. On closer inspection the illustrations contain abundant details such as patterned wallpaper and curtains, funny portraits on walls and rural, industrial and seaside landscapes plus home and classroom scenes from England.

Language areas

  • Action verbs
  • Adjectives for emotions and feelings
  • Abilities
  • The senses

Diversity themes

  • Raising awareness of disability
  • Accepting differences in a positive light

Main outcomes

  • Making a personalised or class book based on the story
  • Singing a traditional song 'If you're happy …'
  • Carrying out a project: Our senses
  • Making a collage of famous people with disabilities
  • Giving a presentation of the story

Susan Laughs, Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross, Red Fox, ISBN 0-09-940756-6

Story notes by Gail Ellis with additional worksheets by Jo Bertrand

The materials form part of the Promoting diversity through children's literature series, produced by the British Council Teaching Centre in Paris. You can download materials for five sessions of around three hours each. The materials include:

  • A sequence of activities – a plan for you to follow
  • Worksheets – for you to print and use with your learners
  • Images for you to use as flashcards

There are a lot of files in this collection - it is a good idea to download the guidelines separately below to help you decide which worksheets or flashcards to use.

Language Level

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